What does America's independence day mean to People of Afrikan Ancestry?
This week all across the United States people will be celebrating America's independence from Great Britain. The question those of us of Afrikan Ancestry should be asking ourselves is "What does America's independence day mean to People of Afrikan Ancestry?"
In 1852 Fredrick Douglas gave a speech entitled "What, To The Slave, Is The Fourth Of July". He admonished White Americans for desiring freedom for themselves while at the same time having slavery as an American institution. He said, "New York has become as Virginia; and the power to hold, hunt and sell men, women and children as slaves remain no longer a mere state institution but is now an institution of the whole United States."
We as people of Afrikan Ancestry sometimes get so caught up in America's Independence that we forget that we were still enslaved when America obtained its Independence. For that reason alone the fourth of July cannot mean the same thing to us as it does for those who are the descendant of the people who once enslaved us. We must view this day through the eyes and lenses of our ancestors.
It is important we begin to see that America's 4th of July celebration of freedom was not our day of freedom. This does not mean we should not celebrate the ideals and ideas of freedom, independence, and liberation. We should celebrate freedom from our own perspective and through the lenses of our historical experiences as oppose to someone Else's.
We must in our celebration come to know and understand the difference between Independence, freedom and liberty. Independence implies the ability to stand alone, without being sustained by anything else. Freedom implies an absence of restraints or compulsion. Liberty implies the power to choose among alternatives rather than merely being unrestrained.
The fourth of July for us as people of Afrikan Ancestry should be a day to reflect on the freedom our Ancestors sought and gave their lives for. This should be a day of remembrance for those Ancestors who through their blood, sweat, and tears fought for our independence. This should be a time when we give thanks to those ancestors who understood that we must not only have freedom and independence, but we should also be liberated from the ideas and ideals of our enslavers and oppressors.
To those of us who want to celebrate the 4th of July, let’s celebrate it in the name of our Ancestors. Celebrate it in the pouring of libation for those who fought for our freedom, independence, and liberation. Let our ancestors know that we have not forgotten them and their sacrifices.
We must remember those who gave their life to our struggle and those who chose to live. If some of our ancestors had not chosen to live and to endure the incredible hardship of slavery and oppression none of us would be alive today.
Let us at this time rededicate and recommit ourselves to repair that which has been damaged, restore that which has been ruined, and recover that which has been lost. We must reflect, remember and give thanks to our freedom fighters. Let us celebrate our heroes/sheroes for their sacrifices.
Last but not least, let us have a conversation with our children about our struggles of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.